THE KOREAN WAR
The UN Offensive
The Korean War was the first major armed clash between Free
World and Communist forces, as the so-called Cold War turned hot. The
half-century that now separates us from that conflict, however, has
dimmed our collective memory. Many Korean War veterans have consid-
ered themselves forgotten, their place in history sandwiched between the
sheer size of World War II and the fierce controversies of the Vietnam
War. The recently built Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National
Mall and the upcoming fiftieth anniversary commemorative events
should now provide well-deserved recognition. I hope that this series of
brochures on the campaigns of the Korean War will have a similar effect.
The Korean War still has much to teach us: about military prepared-
ness, about global strategy, about combined operations in a military
alliance facing blatant aggression, and about the courage and persever-
ance of the individual soldier. The modern world still lives with the con-
sequences of a divided Korea and with a militarily strong, economically
weak, and unpredictable North Korea. The Korean War was waged on
land, on sea, and in the air over and near the Korean peninsula. It lasted
three years, the first of which was a seesaw struggle for control of the
peninsula, followed by two years of positional warfare as a backdrop to
extended cease-fire negotiations. The following essay is one of five
accessible and readable studies designed to enhance understanding of
the U.S. Army's role and achievements in the Korean conflict.
During the next several years the Army will be involved in many
fiftieth anniversary activities, from public ceremonies and staff rides to
professional development discussions and formal classroom training.
The commemoration will be supported by the publication of various
materials to help educate Americans about the war. These works will
provide great opportunities to learn about this important period in the
Army's heritage of service to the nation.
This brochure was prepared in the U.S. Army Center of Military
History by Stephen L.Y. Gammons. I hope this absorbing account,
with its list of further readings, will stimulate further study and reflec-
tion. A complete listing of the Center of Military History's available
works on the Korean War is included in the Center's online catalog:
JOHN S. BROWN
Brigadier General, USA
Chief of Military History
The UN Offensive
16 September-2 November 1950
Following a surprise North Korean attack on 25 June 1950, Lt.
Gen. Walton H. Walker's Eighth Army fought desperate battles to
halt the invasion before finally establishing a defensive line to protect
the vital port city of Pusan on the southeast coast of the Korean
peninsula. By August the Pusan Perimeter stretched about one hun-
dred miles north along the west bank of the Naktong River, west of
Pusan, and, after turning east near Naktong-ni, about fifty miles to
the coast above P'ohang-dong. As the fighting ensued along the
perimeter, more American forces entered Korea to stem the
From the first days of the Korean attack General of the Army
Douglas MacArthur, Commander in Chief, United Nations (UN)
Command, perceived that the deeper the North Korean People 's Army
(NKPA) pushed into South Korea, the more vulnerable it would
become to an amphibious envelopment. MacArthur naturally thought
in terms of an amphibious landing in the enemy's rear area to win the
Korean War. In World War II, after Bataan, all of his campaigns in the
Southwest Pacific had begun as amphibious operations. Such opera-
tions took advantage of American control of the sea and the enemy's
weakness in his rear.
Even as the first U.S. Army units arrived in Korea, MacArthur's
staff began planning for the amphibious assault behind North Korean
lines. The best site was Inch'on, a Yellow Sea port halfway up Korea's
west coast. To the east lay the capital city of Seoul, where the main
roads and rail lines converged. MacArthur reasoned that a force land-
ing at Inch'on would have to move inland only a short distance to cut
the NKPA's main north-south supply routes. A secondary but signifi-
cant consideration was Seoul's psychological importance as the tradi-
tional capital for all of Korea. MacArthur believed a landing at
Inch'on, combined with the Eighth Army's northward advance, would
blunt the enemy offensive. As a result, the retreating enemy would be
either cut off or forced to make a slow and difficult withdrawal
through the mountains farther east.
The nature and location of the planned landing dictated that it be
directed by a tactical headquarters separate from Eighth Army. To that
end, MacArthur created the X
Corps headquarters from mem-
bers of his own staff, naming his
chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Edward
M. Almond, as corps commander.
The X Corps was activated on 26
August 1950 as a separate com-
mand under the General Head-
quarters, Far East Command.
Although pressed in meeting
Eighth Army troop requirements,
MacArthur was able to shape a
two-division landing force, con-
sisting of the 7th Infantry Division
and the 1st Marine Division. In
Japan, performing occupation
duties, the 7th Division had con-
tributed key personnel to the 24th
and 25th Infantry and 1st Cavalry
Divisions as they loaded out for General Almond
Korea. MacArthur rebuilt the vast- (National Archives)
ly understrength division by giving
it high priority on replacements from the United States and by assigning
it eighty-six hundred South Korean recruits, known as KATUSAs, from
the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army program. The 1st
Marine Division, which MacArthur acquired from the United States,
was augmented by the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade from the Pusan
Perimeter and by a Republic of Korea (ROK) Marine Corps regiment.
With these two divisions, along with artillery, engineer, and other sup-
port elements, the X Corps was to make the landing at Inch' on. Except
for the ROK 17th Regiment, which was reassigned from the Eighth
Army to the X Corps, no reinforcements were available.
Naval officials and MacArthur's superiors judged the Inch' on
plan as dangerous. Navy planners considered the Yellow Sea's
extreme tidal variations, sometimes as high as thirty feet, and the nar-
row channel approaches to the port as major risks to shipping. Marine
planners saw peril in landing in the middle of a built-up area and in
having to scale high seawalls to get ashore. The Joint Chiefs of Staff
were concerned that MacArthur was committing his last major
reserves at a time when no more units in the United States were avail-
able for deployment to the Far East. Four National Guard divisions
had been federalized on 1 September, but none was yet ready for
combat duty; and while the draft and the call-ups of Organized
Reserve Corps members were substantially increasing the size of the
Army, they offered MacArthur no prospect of immediate reinforce-
ment. Should the landing run into strong opposition, no help could be
expected. But MacArthur was willing to accept the risks. In light of
the uncertainties, his decision was a remarkable gamble and, given
the results, one of exemplary boldness.
As D-day for the Inch'on landing approached, General Walker was
busy marshaling his forces for the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter.
At this time, Walker had under his direct command the 2d and 25th
Infantry Divisions and the I Corps. Under the corps' control were the
24th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions; the 5th Regimental Combat
Team (RCT), formed from the 5th Infantry; the British 27th Infantry
Brigade; and supporting troops. Earlier, on 17 July, MacArthur
informed Walker that all ROK ground forces would be placed under
his command, pursuant to South Korean President Syngman Rhee's
Walker planned to have I Corps forces break out of the perime-
ter's center near Waegwan, with the main effort directed northward
along the Taegu-Kumch'on-Taejon-Suwon axis. Initially, the 5th
Regimental Combat Team and the 1st Cavalry Division would seize a
bridgehead over the Naktong River near Waegwan, allowing the 24th
Division to drive toward Kumch'on and Taejon. The 1st Cavalry
Division would follow, securing the attacking division's rear and lines
of communications. Concurrently, the 2d and 25th Divisions on the
Eighth Army's left flank and the ROK I and II Corps on the east and
right flank would attack and fix enemy troops in their zones, exploit-
ing any local breakthrough.
The plan had some problems. To supplement the 5th RCT's
Naktong bridgehead mission, Walker wanted the 2d and 24th
Divisions to ford the river below Waegwan and the ROK 1st Division
the portion above the town. However, the plan for multiple crossings
was fraught with difficulties because the Eighth Army lacked the engi-
neer troops and bridging equipment for simultaneous river assaults. In
fact, it had only enough equipment for two ponton treadway bridges
across the Naktong.
In addition, Walker was unable to concentrate a large force in the
Pusan Perimeter's center for the breakout effort. Attacks by NKPA
units had pinned down all of the divisions under Walker's command
except the 24th. Only on the eve of the offensive was he able to move
that division in increments from the east to the perimeter's center.
Essentially, the Eighth Army offensive constituted more of a hold-
ing attack, allowing the X Corps to make the main effort. Walker's
forces would then need to link up quickly with the X Corps to cut off a
large body of North Koreans in the southwestern part of the peninsula.
Walker anticipated that the news of the Inch 'on landing would have a
demoralizing effect on the North Koreans while boosting the spirits of
his troops. For that reason, he requested that the Eighth Army delay its
attack until the day after the Inch'on landing.
The Inch'on Landing
The invasion of Inch'on, code-named Operation Chromite, began
on the morning of 15 September, the objectives being to capture
Inch'on and then to liberate Seoul. The X Corps invasion force, num-
bering nearly seventy thousand men, arrived off the landing beaches
one hundred fifty miles behind enemy lines — the effort marking the
first major amphibious assault by American troops since 1 April 1945
at Okinawa during World War II. The initial phase called for the
seizure of the fortified Wolmi Island that protected Inch'on Harbor.
The assault force, consisting of the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st
Marine Division, and a platoon of nine M26 tanks from Company A,
1st Marine Tank Battalion, hit the island at 0633 and moved rapidly
inland against little resistance. Within a few minutes more troops land-
ed and moved across the island to seal off the causeway leading to
Inch'on. The reduction of Wolmi continued systematically and was
completed at 0750. Marine casualties were 17 wounded. Enemy losses
were 108 soldiers killed and 136 captured. Preinvasion intelligence
about Wolmi Island proved accurate. Enemy prisoners indicated that
about four hundred soldiers of the 3d Battalion, 226th Independent
Marine Regiment, and some artillery troops of the 918th Artillery
Regiment had defended the island.
While the initial fighting had gone well, the battle was far from
over. After the capture of Wolmi an anxious period prevailed when the
tide began to fall, stopping further landing operations until late in the
afternoon. Although the North Koreans were now fully alerted, they
had few troops in the region. Moreover, American aircraft covered the
countryside during the day, isolating the port to a distance of twenty-
five miles, and naval gunfire the closer approaches to Inch'on.
Late in the afternoon assault troops of the 1st and 5th Marines
headed for separate landing areas, designated Red and Blue Beaches,
on the Inch'on shoreline. The 5th Marines' first wave arrived at Red
THE INCH'ON LANDING
15-18 September 1950
Marine Landings, 15 Sep
Marine Positions, Night, 15 Sep
Marine Positions, Night, 16 Sep
BHL Beachhead Line
ELEVATIONS IN M ETERS
Beach at 1733. Most of the men had to climb the seawall with scaling
ladders, although some made their way through holes in the wall creat-
ed by the naval bombardment. Two objectives, Cemetery and
Observatory Hills, lay in front of the assault force. On the left flank of
the landing area an intense firefight ensued when a marine platoon
encountered North Korean soldiers in trenches and a bunker just
beyond the seawall. Nevertheless, Cemetery Hill was taken just twenty-
two minutes after the landing, with many of its defenders throwing
down their weapons and surrendering. By midnight other marine ele-
ments had fought their way against sporadic resistance to the top of
Observatory Hill. Meanwhile, the 1st Marines' first wave reached Blue
Beach at 1732, and most of the men also had to climb a high seawall
that fronted the area. Fighting through the evening and into the night,
the assault force had taken its final D-day objectives by 0130, 16
September. Marine casualties were 20 men killed, 174 wounded, and 1
missing in action.
The Inch'on landing had come as a complete surprise to the North
Koreans. Consistent with preinvasion estimates, enemy prisoners relat-
ed that the Inch'on garrison consisted of about two thousand men. As
garrison reinforcements, elements of the 22d Regiment had moved to
Inch'on before dawn on the fifteenth but retreated to Seoul after the
main landing that evening. Prepared defenses had been minimal and
By the morning of 16 September the 1st and 5th Marines had
joined forces and were advancing rapidly against light resistance. By
evening they had reached a prearranged beachhead line, six miles
inland from the actual landing area. The line, which included the
port as well as the high ground east of Inch'on, was deep enough to
prevent enemy artillery fire on the landing and unloading areas, and
served as a base to seize Kimp'o Airfield, the next objective, about
halfway between Inch'on and Seoul. The 5th Marines reached the
edge of the airfield by 1800 on 17 September, taking the southern
part within the next two hours. The airfield's four hundred to five
hundred defenders appeared surprised and were easily brushed aside.
Several company-size counterattacks struck the airfield's perimeter
positions during the night, but the North Koreans were repulsed, suf-
fering heavy casualties and finally fleeing to the northwest. The
Americans secured the airfield during the morning of 18 September.
As a result, the United Nations Command gained its first ground air
base north of the Pusan region, which greatly eased its ability to sup-
port not only the attack on Seoul but also interdiction operations
throughout South Korea.
By now, the remaining X Corps elements had arrived to join in the
battle for Seoul. Ships carrying the 7th Division from Japan reached
Inch'on Harbor on 16 September. General Almond wanted the troops
disembarked as soon as possible to cover the area south of Seoul from
any North Korean units that might have been sent north from the
Pusan region. The 7th Division's 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, landed
during the morning of the eighteenth; the remainder of the regiment
went ashore later in the day. The next morning the 2d Battalion moved
up to relieve the 1st Marine Division's 2d Battalion, 1st Marines,
which was occupying positions on the right flank south of the Seoul
highway. Meanwhile, the 7th Division's 31st Infantry came ashore at
Inch'on. Responsibility for the zone south of the Seoul highway
passed to the 7th Division at 1800, 19 September.
The Battle for Seoul
With Inch'on and its harbor secured, the X Corps now faced the
daunting task of retaking Seoul itself. Seoul, twenty-five miles to the
east, had been reinforced after the Inch'on landings and now held
over twenty thousand NKPA soldiers. Protecting Seoul to the south
and southwest was the wide Han River. The city was heavily damaged
and presented a formidable obstacle, with numerous street barricades
and enemy positions on the hills dominating its approaches. The
assault on the city would be aided somewhat by the recapture of
Kimp'o Airfield and its subsequent use by American close air support
aircraft. But indications were that the battle for the city would be far
greater than had been the action at Inch' on and the advance to the
As the 1st Marines fought its way east along the Inch'on-Seoul
highway into Yongdungp'o, about one and a half miles west of Seoul
on the south side of the Han River, the 7th Division protected the
marines' right flank and engaged enemy forces moving toward the bat-
tle area from the south. Seeking to cut the Seoul-Suwon highway, the
32d Infantry attacked southeast toward Anyang-ni, about five miles
south of Yongdungp'o, until 20 September, when its advance was halt-
ed by an extensive minefield. Exploding mines damaged three tanks of
Company A, 73d Tank Battalion, completely blocking the narrow dirt
road the column was following. After engineer troops removed more
than one hundred fifty mines, the 32d Infantry resumed its advance
toward Anyang-ni, capturing Tongdok Mountain and part of Copper
The 32d Infantry took the rest of Copper Mine Hill the following
day, 21 September, and captured the high ground northeast of Anyang-
ni. When night fell, its 3d Battalion held blocking positions astride the
Suwon highway, two miles south of Anyang-ni, and its 1st Battalion
the road east and the high ground northeast of the town. In the mean-
time, seven miles northeast of Anyang-ni, in the vicinity of Hill 290,
enemy forces ambushed the lead platoon of Company B, 1st Battalion,
and seriously disorganized it. Closely pursued by the enemy, the com-
pany withdrew two miles southward toward the 1st Battalion's lines
and halted the NKPA force. On the twenty-third the 1st Battalion
resumed the offensive, seizing Hill 290. Situated three miles below the
Han River and seven miles southeast of Yongdungp'o, Hill 290 domi-
nated the southern approaches to the Han and to Seoul.
While the X Corps' southern flank was being secured by the 7th
Division, the heaviest fighting in the battle for Seoul began on the
city's western edge on 22 September and lasted four days. The NKPA's
defensive line on the west side of Seoul was fixed firmly at the north
on Hill 296, just south of the Kaesong highway and west of Seoul's
Sodaemun Prison. The NKPA line curved from the crest of Hill 296 in
a gentle half-moon sweep eastward and southward down spur ridges
two and a half miles to the Han River, the concave side facing west
toward the UN troops. Three hills, known as Hills 105 North, Center,
and South, formed the greater part of this uneven ridgeline. Hills 105
Center and 105 South, through which the main Pusan-Manchuria rail
line and road coursed into Seoul, completely dominated the area and
contained a variety of field fortifications capable of quick organization
for defense. Two miles east of these positions, in the center of the city,
were the Government House and main railroad station.
The principal NKPA unit manning this line was the 25th Brigade.
Formed a month earlier at Ch'orwon, it had begun moving to Seoul
on the day of the Inch' on landing, with most of the unit arriving in
the city on 19 September. The brigade numbered about twenty-five
hundred men and probably consisted of two infantry battalions, four
heavy machine gun battalions, an engineer battalion, a 76-mm.
artillery battalion, a 120-mm. mortar battalion, and miscellaneous
service troops. Along with the 78th Independent Regiment, it defend-
ed both the military and topographic crests. The slopes contained
defensive positions — deep foxholes, which offered protection from
overhead shell air bursts; and concrete caves, which stored abundant
supplies. More than fifty heavy machine guns, with interlocking fields
of fire, dotted these slopes.
Starting on 22 September, the 5th Marines fought a series of hard
battles as it attempted to clear the North Koreans from positions west
of Seoul. The 5th was soon joined by two other regiments, as
planned, but the enemy's stubborn defense had begun to worry the
American commanders. On the twenty-third General Almond
expressed to the 1st Marine Division commander, Maj. Gen. Oliver P.
Smith, his dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the marines' progress,
giving him twenty-four hours to gain ground. Otherwise, Almond told
Smith that he would change the division boundaries and bring the 7th
Division's 32d Infantry into the battle to envelop the enemy's defenses
from the south.
On the morning of 24 September the North Koreans were still
holding the marines in check west of Seoul. After conferring with the
7th Division commander, Maj. Gen. David G. Barr, Almond changed
the boundary between Barr's and Smith's units. Early the next morning
Barr's forces would attack across the Han River into the southeast por-
tion of Seoul.
To support the 7th Division's crossing, the X Corps reinforced
Barr with the Marines' 1st Amphibious Tractor Battalion (minus one
company), two platoons of Company A, 56th Amphibious Tank and
Tractor Battalion, and the ROK 17th Regiment. The division's 32d
Infantry would spearhead the attack, with the crossing taking place at
the Sinsa-ri ferry three miles east of the main rail and highway bridges
over the Han River. The main rail line and highway on the east side of
the city passed about a mile beyond the northern base of South
Mountain (Nam-san), its nine hundred feet making it the highest point
For the crossing the 32d Infantry had a strength of over forty-nine
hundred soldiers, of which slightly more than eighteen hundred were
South Koreans. Its mission was threefold: take and secure South
Mountain; secure Hill 120, situated two miles southeast of Seoul; and
seize and hold Hill 348, a large high mass five miles east of the city.
The battle opened at 0600 on 25 September, when the 48th Field
Artillery Battalion began firing a thirty-minute artillery preparation.
Soon the heavy mortars joined in to hammer the cliffs that lined the
opposite side of the river. At 0630, under the cover of ground fog, the
2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, crossed the Han. Upon reaching the other
side, the soldiers scurried across the narrow riverbank and scaled the
thirty- to sixty-foot cliffs. The river crossing apparently surprised the
North Koreans, whose defenses were lightly manned. The Americans
met only moderate resistance as they reached and cleared the summit
of South Mountain by 1500.
Meanwhile, the 32d Infantry's 1st Battalion crossed the Han at
0830 and moved east along the riverbank toward Hill 120. Its 3d
Battalion made its way to the other side of the river a little after noon,
passed through the 1st Battalion's ranks, and took up positions on Hill
120 itself. The ROK 17th Regiment followed immediately behind the
3d Battalion and moved farther east to the 32d Infantry's extreme
right flank, where, at 2150, it commenced an all-night attack against
Occupying a tight perimeter on top of South Mountain, the 2d
Battalion's soldiers waited quietly but tensely throughout the night for
the enemy's counterattack. The early morning hours passed slowly,
without nearly a sound. Finally, at 0500 on 26 September, an NKPA
force of approximately one thousand men charged Company G on the
mountain's higher western knob and Company F on the lower eastern
knob. Company G held its position, but F was overrun. After two more
hours of fighting, the Americans restored their positions and forced the
surviving North Koreans to retreat down the slopes.
The same morning the 1st Battalion, to the east, also found itself
heavily engaged while the 3d Battalion moved from Hill 120 to Hill
348. En route, the latter's Company L, commanded by 1st Lt. Harry J.
McCaffrey, Jr., observed a large enemy column on the highway leav-
Captured enemy weapons (National Archives)
ing Seoul. Seizing the opportunity, McCaffrey ordered his men to
attack. Using surprise, the infantrymen destroyed or captured five
tanks, more than forty other vehicles, three artillery pieces, and seven
machine guns, as well as seized two ammunition dumps, clothing,
and other supplies. About 500 NKPA soldiers, possibly members of a
corps headquarters, were killed during the battle. American analysts
believed that those killed constituted the principal enemy command
During the 32d Infantry's assault on South Mountain, the marines
ground down the hill defenses on Seoul's west side and entered Seoul
proper on 25 September. By that time, the NKPA's 18th Division com-
mander had decided that the battle was lost and began withdrawing his
unit, which had been fighting in the Yongdungp'o area south of the
Han River. To cover the division's northbound retreat, the North
Koreans struck with desperate counterattacks at every point of the X
Corps' advance into the city. Day-long street fighting ensued on the
twenty-sixth. With snipers firing from houses and defenders manning
barricades, each city block became a small battlefield. By nightfall X
Corps soldiers controlled approximately half of Seoul.
Tanks passing through a demolished barricade on the outskirts of Seoul
Earlier that day General MacArthur had announced in a dispatch
that Seoul had been completely enveloped and held by the ROK 17th
Regiment and elements of the 7th Infantry and 1st Marine Divisions.
Day-long street fighting, however, continued throughout the twenty-sev-
enth. The defenders in the center of Seoul built chest-high barricades
across the streets, from which they fired antitank guns and machine
guns. Rocket attacks and strafing runs by U.S. Navy and Marine aircraft,
mortar attacks, and fire from tanks were used to reduce the barricades.
In some cases, a single barricade held up a battalion's advance by as
much as an hour. During the night the last defenders, except for snipers
and stragglers, finally withdrew from the city and all enemy resistance
ended the next day. In a brief ceremony on 29 September General
MacArthur returned control of Seoul to President Rhee.
The victory achieved in the fight for Inch'on and Seoul was not
without cost. The X Corps' casualties totaled some 3,500. The 7th
Division had 106 killed, 409 wounded, and 57 missing in action (these
totals included 166 KATUSAs), and its 32d Infantry alone lost 66
killed, 272 wounded, and 47 missing. The 1st Marine Division suf-
fered the heaviest losses — 364 killed, 53 of whom died of wounds;
1,961 wounded; and 5 missing in action. Enemy casualties were esti-
mated at 14,000 killed, and prisoners of war were confirmed at 7,000.
Breakout and Pursuit
In the south the Eighth Army's battle line, at its closest point, was
one hundred eighty miles by air from the X Corps' landing area in the
enemy's rear. The winding mountain roads that lay ahead of the army
made that distance even farther. After a slow start, however, the
mileage was quickly covered as the American forces linked up south
As the X Corps secured Inch'on on 16 September, General
Walker's Eighth Army pushed out of the Pusan Perimeter. The Eighth
Army began its breakout on schedule at 0900. The offensive, however,
was not simultaneous; many Eighth Army units were still repelling
enemy attacks. The momentum of the breakout built slowly in the face
of strong enemy resistance, centered on several hills that controlled the
Eighth Army's main avenues of advance northward.
South of Waegwan, Hill 268 represented a critical terrain feature,
for the main highway ran along the east bank of the Naktong River.
The NKPA's tank- supported 3d Division defended this southern
approach to the Waegwan-Taegu road. The hill was important tactical-
ly because of a gap in the enemy line to the south. The British 27th
Brigade held vital blocking positions at the lower side of this gap, just
above strong forces of the NKPA's 10th Division.
Moving along the east bank of the Naktong on 19 September, the
5th Regimental Combat Team, which was attached to the 1st Cavalry
Division, began a full regimental assault against Hill 268. After a hard
day of fighting the 5th took the hill, except for its northeast slope. By
nightfall the 5th Infantry's 3d Battalion was on the hill; its 1st
Battalion was pushing northwest toward another enemy position; and
its 2d Battalion had captured Hill 121, one and a half miles north of
Hill 268 and one mile short of Waegwan.
The battle for Hill 268 continued the next morning as more than
two hundred NKPA soldiers in log-covered bunkers fought the 3d
Battalion. Three flights of U.S. Air Force F-51 Mustang fighters
dropped napalm, fired rockets, and strafed the enemy bunkers.
Following the air strikes, the 5th Regimental Combat Team again
struck at the bunkers, where, in many cases, the North Koreans fought
to the last man. By noon the 5th controlled both the summit and slopes
of the position.
With the loss of these key positions, the 3d Division's defenses
around Waegwan broke apart and its troops began a panic-stricken
retreat across the Naktong. Aerial observers estimated that fifteen hun-
dred North Koreans crossed to the west side of the Naktong just above
Waegwan. Further reports indicated that the roads north of the town
were jammed with enemy soldiers in groups of ten to three hundred.
On 19 September the 5th Infantry's 2d Battalion traversed the
Naktong River, took Waegwan, moved through the town to the south-
west slope of Hill 303, and secured the hill on the twentieth. By the
afternoon of the following day the entire 5th Regimental Combat
Team was on the other side of the Naktong, and in a span of five
days the 5th had crushed the 3d Division's right flank and part of its
center. The enemy's advance positions on the road to Taegu, where
the 1st Cavalry Division's 5th Cavalry found battle, were thus ren-
Meanwhile, along its defensive line on the western edges of the
Pusan Perimeter, the 25th Division was still fighting the NKPA's 6th
and 7th Divisions on 16 September. The enemy appeared stronger than
ever on the heights of Battle Mountain, P'il-bong, and Sobuk-san. The
24th Infantry, positioned in the center, faced the brunt of the enemy's
daily attacks. The 27th Infantry was on its left and the 35th Infantry on
its right, astride the east-west Masan-Chinju road. To counter the
NKPA's offensive, the 25th Division's commander, Maj. Gen. William
B. Kean, assembled a composite battalion-size task force to attack the
enemy-held heights of Battle Mountain and P'il-bong. Heavily sup-
ported by fire from the 8th and 90th Field Artillery Battalions and by
numerous air strikes, the task force attacked these heights repeatedly
on the seventeenth and eighteenth. However, automatic weapons fire
from well-prepared enemy positions drove back the Americans, who
sustained heavy casualties. Company A, 27th Infantry, alone suffered
57 casualties in a period of twenty-four hours.
On the eighteenth, after failing to drive the enemy from the peaks,
Kean dissolved the task force. The next morning he found that the
North Koreans had abandoned their positions on the crest of Battle
Mountain during the night, and the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, moved
up and secured the area.
On 19 September the 35th Infantry on the right, or northern, flank
met light resistance until it reached the high ground in front of
Chungam-ni. There, in cleverly hidden spider holes, enemy troops
fired on 1st Battalion soldiers from the rear. The next day the 1st
Battalion captured Chungam-ni, and the 2d Battalion took the long
ridgeline running northwest from Chungam-ni to the Nam River. To
the south, heavy fighting on the 25th Division's left flank kept the 27th
Infantry busy as it tried to move forward. On the twenty-first, three
miles southwest of Chungam-ni, the 35th Infantry captured the well-
known Notch and then moved rapidly west eight air miles without
resistance to the high ground at the Chinju pass, only to be blocked by
6th Division elements protecting the unit's withdrawal across the Nam
River and through Chinju some six miles to the west. At the same
time, the 24th Infantry in the center and the 27th Infantry on the left
advanced, slowed only by the rugged terrain. By the end of September
the 25th Division had seized the west coast port of Kunsan.
A river crossing via an underwater bridge (left) and a makeshift ferry
On the right flank of the Pusan Perimeter, in the mountainous
region of the ROK II Corps, ROK 6th Division soldiers advanced
slowly against the NKPA's 8th Division. After four days of battle the
8th Division was destroyed as a combat force, suffering about four
thousand casualties. Enemy survivors fled in disarray north toward
Yech'on. By 21 September the ROK 6th Division, meeting little oppo-
sition, was advancing northward toward Uihung.
Farther to the east the ROK 8th Division found little opposition
from the NKPA's 15th Division, which had been practically annihilat-
ed. On 16 September, in the ROK I Corps sector, elements of the ROK
Capital Division fought their way through the streets of An'gang-ni.
The next day, advancing from the west in the ROK II Corps sector, a
battalion of the ROK 7th Division linked up with elements of the ROK
Capital Division, closing a two-week-old gap between the ROK I and
The NKPA's 12th Division waged a series of stubborn delaying
actions against the ROK Capital Division in the vicinity of Kigye as
the North Koreans retreated northward into the mountains. Kigye fell
on 22 September. In the harbor village of P'ohang-dong fierce battles
were fought between the ROK 3d Division and the NKPA's 5th
Division. The ROK units finally captured the village during the morn-
Infantrymen helping a wounded comrade (National Archives)
ing of the twentieth. They continued to attack aggressively, forcing a
disorderly withdrawal by the enemy toward Yongdok.
As MacArthur had anticipated, the North Korean Army was cut
off and in retreat. By 23 September the enemy cordon around the
Pusan Perimeter had been destroyed. The North Korean soldiers in
the south had disintegrated as an effective military force; while some
escaped to the north and others became guerrillas in the south, most
were casualties. The breakout from the Pusan Perimeter cost the
Eighth Army 790 killed and 3,544 wounded. But X Corps and
Eighth Army soldiers had captured 23,000 enemy personnel and
killed thousands more.
Crossing the 38th Parallel
As soon as UN leaders digested the allied success, they began to
debate the advisability of crossing the 38th Parallel into North Korea.
The National Security Council advised President Harry S. Truman
against moving north. The council's position was that the expulsion of
the North Koreans from South Korea was a sufficient victory. The
Joint Chiefs of Staff disagreed, however, claiming military doctrine
demanded that the North Korean Army be destroyed completely to
prevent renewed aggression. President Truman, on 11 September,
adopted the arguments of his military advisers while heeding the
National Security Council's call to avoid provoking Communist China
and the Soviet Union.
Thus, on 27 September, the Joint Chiefs directed General
MacArthur to cross the 38th Parallel for the purpose of destroying
North Korea's military forces, providing that no Chinese or Soviet
forces had entered, or threatened to enter, North Korea. They further
decreed that UN troops were not to go into China or the Soviet Union
and that only ROK soldiers should operate along these borders.
Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall, on the twenty-ninth, sent
MacArthur a personal message that confirmed his approval for tactical
and strategic operations north of the parallel. This message,
MacArthur was told, had been personally endorsed by Truman.
MacArthur received a secondary mission to unite all of Korea, if pos-
sible, under President Rhee.
The responses to this decision were immediate and strong. On 1
October Premier Chou En-lai warned that China would not tolerate or
stand aside if UN forces invaded North Korea. This was a clear threat
that China would intervene if that should happen. On the second the
Soviet delegate to the United Nations proposed that a cease-fire in
Korea be called and that all foreign troops be withdrawn. The follow-
ing day the Indian delegate expressed his government's position that
UN forces should not cross the 38th Parallel.
General MacArthur, on 1 October, sent a message to the comman-
der in chief of the North Korean forces, demanding that the North
Koreans lay down their arms and cease hostilities under UN military
supervision so as to avoid further loss of life and destruction of prop-
erty. The message also called for the release of UN prisoners of war
and civilian internees. But North Korea ignored the proposals.
MacArthur issued a last chance ultimatum for North Korea to surren-
der on the ninth. While North Korea did not respond officially,
Premier Kim II Sung rejected it the following day in a radio broadcast.
Meanwhile, on the seventh, the UN General Assembly had passed a
resolution calling for the unification of Korea and authorizing
MacArthur to send troops across the 38th Parallel.
With the IX Corps positioned to protect the lines of communica-
tions south of the Han River, which flows east to west south of Seoul,
General Walker ordered the I Corps, with the 1st Cavalry, 24th
Infantry, and ROK 1st Divisions, to assemble in the vicinity of
Kaesong, northwest of Seoul just below the 38th Parallel. Upon
receipt of orders, the ROK II Corps, composed of the 6th, 7th, and 8th
Divisions, moved to the area between Ch'unch'on and Uijongbu in
central Korea and the ROK I Corps, which consisted of the Capital
and 3d Divisions, to the area between Yongp'o and Chumunjin-up on
Korea's east coast. While these forces prepared to attack northward, X
Corps elements boarded ships at Inch'on and Pusan for an amphibious
landing at Wonsan, a major port on North Korea's east coast one hun-
dred ten miles above the 38th Parallel.
On 29 September a message, dropped from a light plane by an
officer with the Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea,
was delivered to the U.S. adviser to the ROK 3d Division, Lt. Col.
Rollins S. Emmerich. According to the message, the ROK 3d Division
was to cross the 38th Parallel and proceed to Wonsan as soon as possi-
ble. The next day the division crossed the parallel and advanced up the
east coast. The ROK Capital Division followed. After establishing
command posts at Yangyang, eight miles north of the parallel, on 2
October, both divisions proceeded to Wonsan and captured the town
on the tenth, well before the X Corps had landed.
At Kaesong the 1st Cavalry Division was ready to cross the line.
The 8th Cavalry, in the center, was to attack frontally from Kaesong
to Kumch'on, fifteen miles north and along the main highway axis;
and the 5th Cavalry, on the right, was to move east and then swing
west in a circular flanking movement, designed to trap enemy forces
south of Kumch'on. In the meantime, the 7th Cavalry, on the divi-
sion's left, traversed the Yesong River; advanced north on the road
from Paekch'on to the small town of Hanp'o-ri, six miles north of
Kumch'on, where the main P'yongyang road crossed the Yesong
River; and established a blocking position. Defending the Kumch'on
area north of Kaesong were the NKPA's 19th and 27th Divisions. Its
43d Division, to the west, defended the Yesong River crossing and the
coastal area beyond the river.
At 0900 on 9 October the 1st Cavalry Division struck out across
the 38th Parallel. Initially, the advance was slow. Along the main high-
way the 8th Cavalry stopped repeatedly and waited for engineer troops
to clear mines from the road. Halfway to Kumch'on on the twelfth the
regiment was halted by an enemy strongpoint, defended by tanks, self-
propelled guns, and antiaircraft weapons. In spite of a sixteen-plane air
strike and a 155-mm. howitzer barrage, the strongpoint held.
The 5th Cavalry, which also ran into trouble at the start, failed to
cross the parallel until 10 October. The next day its 1st Battalion
encountered an enemy force holding a long ridge with several knobs —
Hills 179, 175, and 174 — that dominated a pass fifteen miles northeast
of Kaesong. The infantrymen drove the defenders from the ridge dur-
ing the afternoon of the twelfth, but the fight was fierce. In the battle
1st Cavalry Division troops pursuing the enemy north ofKaesong
for Hill 174 1st Lt. Samuel S. Coursen, a platoon leader in Company
C, observing that one of his men had entered a well-hidden gun
emplacement, thought to be unoccupied, and had taken a bullet, ran to
his aid. Without regard for his personal safety, Lieutenant Coursen
engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat in an effort to protect the
wounded soldier until he himself was killed. When his body was
recovered after the battle, 7 enemy dead were found in the emplace-
ment. Coursen's actions saved the wounded soldier's life and eliminat-
ed the main position of the enemy roadblock. For his actions,
Lieutenant Coursen received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
After much fighting, the 1st Cavalry Division captured Kumch'on
on 14 October. With I Corps soldiers moving through the enemy's prin-
cipal fortified positions between the 38th Parallel and P'yongyang, the
North Korean capital city, enemy front lines as such ceased to exist. On
the nineteenth Company F, 5th Cavalry, entered P'yongyang, followed
shortly thereafter by ROK 1st Division elements from the northeast.
The next morning, the fifteenth, the ROK 1st Division reached the heart
of the city and took the strongly fortified administrative center without
difficulty. The entire city was secured by 1000 that day.
On Korea's east coast, the X Corps' 1st Marine Division went
ashore at Wonsan on 26 October and its 7th Division landed unop-
Soldiers of the 5th Cavalry advancing on Pyongyang
posed at Iwon, eighty miles north of Wonsan, on the twenty-ninth.
Once in place, X Corps forces began to secure key industrial and com-
munications areas, port installations, and the power and irrigation
plants in northeastern Korea.
On 24 October General Walker took personal command of his
advance Eighth Army headquarters in P'yongyang, located in the
same building that had been the headquarters of Premier Kim II Sung.
In retrospect, the Eighth Army had accomplished much in a short peri-
od of time. Less than six weeks had passed since the army had fought
desperately to hold its lines three hundred twenty miles to the south
along the Pusan Perimeter. Likewise, the Inch'on landing was less than
six weeks in the past and it was four weeks since the recapture of
Seoul. Having broken out of its embattled perimeter and pushing
northward, the Eighth Army was now one hundred sixty miles north of
Seoul and one hundred thirty miles inside North Korean territory.
After many hard-fought battles between the perimeter and
P'yongyang, it had succeeded in overrunning the enemy's capital city
and was about to breach the last important river barrier south of North
Korea's northern border.
The Yalu River
With the North Korean capital city secured, the Eighth Army con-
tinued its push northward toward the Yalu River, Korea's traditional
border with China. The Ch'ongch'on River and its tributaries, the
Kuryong and Taeryong Rivers, all flowing from the north, formed the
last major water barrier in the western part of North Korea short of the
border. At this point in time, the Ch'ongch'on River was the principal
terrain feature in the Eighth Army's field of operations, and it largely
dictated the army's deployment and tactical maneuvers.
The Eighth Army's operations above the Ch'ongch'on River were
essentially a continuation of the pursuit that started with the breakout
from the Pusan Perimeter. Moving northward, the I Corps, with the
24th Division and the attached British 27th Brigade positioned on the
left, proceeded to the Ch'ongch'on; the ROK II Corps, with the ROK
1st Division, advanced on the right. To the east the ROK 8th Division
reached Tokch'on, forty miles north of P'yongyang, during the night
of 23 October and then turned north and arrived at Kujang-dong on
the Ch'ongch'on, about ten miles from Tokch'on, two days later. The
ROK 6th Division, meeting little opposition and traveling fast up the
Ch'ongch'on River valley, reached Huich'on, nearly sixteen miles
north of Kujang-dong, on the night of the twenty-third. Passing
through Onjong, twenty-six miles from Huich'on, during the night of
the twenty-fourth, the 7th Regiment, ROK 6th Division, turned north
and advanced toward Ch'osan, fifty miles away on the Yalu River. A
reinforced reconnaissance platoon from the 7th Regiment entered
Ch'osan the next morning and found the North Koreans retreating
across the Yalu into China over a narrow floating footbridge.
In the meantime, on 22 October the 24th Division, having been
relieved by the 2d Division, moved northward from P'yongyang, its
mission to push the North Koreans against the 187th Airborne
Infantry's blocking position, thus cutting off the enemy's escape route
and, it was hoped, rescuing prisoners of war. Elements of the 24th
Division continued to press northward, and the 1st Battalion, 21st
Infantry, reached Chonggo-dong, just southwest of Sinuiju on the Yalu
River, the northernmost penetration of the Eighth Army.
Late in October, in the mountainous region above P'yongyang,
the Eighth Army was poised to cross the Ch'ongch'on River in full
force. On North Korea's east coast, across the formidable barrier of
the Taebaek Mountains, X Corps forces were landing and beginning
their drive to the Yalu. Morale among the American and allied sol-
diers was high, for many thought that this river crossing would be the
last brief phase of the war. But then the unexpected happened: China
entered the war.
On 25 October, in the ROK II Corps sector, the 3d Battalion, 2d
Regiment, ROK 6th Division, started northwest from Onjong, about
fifty miles from the Yalu, toward Pukchin. Eight miles west of Onjong
the 3d Battalion encountered what was thought to be a small force of
North Koreans but was, in reality, a Communist Chinese forces (CCF)
trap, in which CCF troops destroyed the 3d Battalion as an organized
force. On the evening of the next day the division ordered its 7th
Regiment to withdraw south. Before it could do so, however, it needed
supplies, which were airdropped on the twenty-eighth. As the 7th
Regiment headed south the following morning, it ran into an enemy
roadblock about twenty miles south of Kojang.
More attacks followed on 31 October as CCF troops broke through
the sector of the 16th Regiment, ROK 8th Division, near its boundary
with the ROK 1st Division. By the next day the Chinese had pushed the
ROK 7th Division back to the vicinity of Won-ni. The series of attacks
forced the ROK II Corps to pivot facing east, causing a gap between its
left flank and the U.S. I Corps. Walker quickly assembled the 2d
Division in the Sunch'on area to meet any possible emergency in this
gap. Within a few days of the first battles the CCF troops had driven
back and severely crippled the ROK II Corps and had moved south of
the Ch'ongch'on River to the U.S. I Corps' open right flank.
In the far west, the story was the same. As part of the U.S. I
Corps' general advance on 25 October, the ROK 1st Division was
spread out on the road that ran from the Ch'ongch'on River to
Unsan. The division's 15th Regiment passed through Yongbyon and
continued toward Unsan without opposition. In the lead were ele-
ments of Company D, 6th Medium Tank Battalion, which also
passed through Unsan without incident. Just before 1100, as the
tanks approached a bridge one and a half miles northeast of the
town, enemy mortar fire blew the bridge. Engaging the enemy force,
the South Korean soldiers reported a half-hour later that three hun-
dred Chinese troops were in the hills just north of Unsan. Second in
the division column, the ROK 12th Regiment turned west when it
arrived at Unsan. It, too, ran into the Chinese just beyond the town.
The CCF's attacks against the ROK 1st Division continued on the
twenty-sixth but eased up the following day.
As reports from the front reached the Eighth Army headquarters
that prisoners captured by ROK soldiers were Chinese, General
Walker became concerned. On 28 October he relieved the 1st Cavalry
Division of its security mission in P'yongyang. The division's new
orders were to pass through the ROK 1st Division's lines at Unsan and
attack toward the Yalu River. Leading the way on the twenty-ninth, the
8th Cavalry departed P'yongyang and reached Yongsan-dong that
evening. The 5th Cavalry arrived the next morning, with the mission
to protect the 8th Cavalry's rear. With the arrival of the 8th Cavalry at
Unsan on the thirty-first, the ROK 1st Division redeployed to positions
northeast, east, and southeast of Unsan; the 8th Cavalry took up posi-
tions north, west, and south of the town. Meanwhile, the ROK 15th
Regiment was desperately trying to hold its position east of the 8th
Cavalry, across the Samt'an River.
During the afternoon of 1 November the CCF's attack north of
Unsan gained strength against the ROK 15th Regiment and gradually
extended to the right flank of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry. At night-
fall the 1st Battalion controlled the northern approaches to the
Samt'an River, except for portions of the ROK 15th Regiment's zone
on the east side. The battalion's position on the left was weak; there
were not enough soldiers to extend the defensive line to the main ridge
leading into Unsan. This left a gap between the 1st and 2d Battalions.
East of the Samt'an the ROK 15th Regiment was under heavy attack,
and shortly after midnight it no longer existed as a combat force.
The ordeal of the 8th Cavalry now began. At 1930 on 1 November
the Chinese attacked the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, all along its line.
At 2100 CCF troops found the weak link in the ridgeline and began
moving through it and down the ridge behind the 2d Battalion, pene-
trating its right flank and encircling its left. Now both the 1st and 2d
Battalions were engaged by the enemy on several sides. Around mid-
night the 8th Cavalry received orders to withdraw southward to Ipsok.
As of 0130 on 2 November there were no reports of enemy activity
in the 3d Battalion's sector south of Unsan. But as the 8th Cavalry with-
drew, all three battalions became trapped by CCF roadblocks south of
Unsan during the early morning hours. Members of the 1st Battalion
who were able to escape reached the Ipsok area. A head count showed
that the battalion had lost about 15 officers and 250 enlisted men.
Members of the 2d Battalion, for the most part, scattered into the hills.
Many of them reached the ROK lines near Ipsok. Others met up with
the 3d Battalion, the hardest hit. Around 0300 the Chinese launched a
surprise attack on the battalion command post. Hand-to-hand fighting
ensued for about half an hour before the enemy was driven from the
area. The disorganized members of the 3d Battalion formed a core of
resistance around three tanks on the valley floor and held off the enemy
until daylight. By that time only 6 officers and 200 enlisted men were
still able to function. More than 170 were wounded, and there was no
account of the number dead or missing. Attempts by the 5th Cavalry to
relieve the beleaguered battalion were unsuccessful, and the 3d
Battalion, 8th Cavalry, soon ceased to exist as an organized force.
The enemy force that brought tragedy to the 8th Cavalry at Unsan
was the CCF's 116th Division. Elements of the lath's 347th Regiment
were responsible for the roadblock south of Unsan. Also engaged in
the Unsan action was the CCF's 115th Division. The arrival of the
Chinese was obviously now going to have a dramatic impact on the
course of the war.
For the United Nations forces, victory was in the air by early
October 1950. The Inch'on landing and the breakout from the Pusan
Perimeter had destroyed the North Korean units operating south of the
38th Parallel. With the return of Seoul to the South Korean govern-
ment, the Republic of Korea regained the status it had enjoyed before
the 25 June invasion. To stop at this juncture would have been consis-
tent with America's policy of containment. However, substantial rea-
sons existed for carrying the war into North Korea. An estimated thir-
ty thousand NKPA soldiers had escaped over the border, with an addi-
tional thirty thousand in northern training camps. Combined, these
numbers represented enough troops to fill six divisions, and South
Korea's military forces were, if anything, even weaker than they had
been before the invasion. At best, a halt would have compelled the
United Nations Command to maintain a presence along the 38th
Parallel indefinitely or risk another invasion of South Korea.
By all appearances, a complete military victory was within easy
grasp. However, the decision to cross the 38th Parallel appears, in ret-
rospect, to have been the turning point in the Korean War. Communist
China had warned that it might intervene if foreign forces crossed the
parallel. The warning had gone unheeded. In response, nearly one
hundred eighty thousand CCF soldiers secretly crossed the Yalu River
between 14 October and 1 November. General Mac Arthur, unaware of
the full extent of Communist China's commitment, believed that the
attack on 25 October was a token gesture rather than a serious inter-
cession. But, by early November, intelligence officers had amassed
undeniable evidence that the Chinese had indeed intervened in
strength. Eighth Army troops found themselves once more on the
defensive, being pushed southward. The course of the war had
Appleman, Roy E. South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu
(June-November 1950). United States Army in the Korean War.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1961.
Sandler, Stanley, ed. The Korean War: An Encyclopedia. Military
History of the United States, vol. 4. New York: Garland
Summers, Harry G., Jr. Korean War Almanac. New York: Facts on
United States Military Academy, Department of Military Art and
Engineering. Operations in Korea. West Point, N.Y: United States
Military Academy, 1956.
. The West Point Atlas of American Wars. Edited by Vincent J.
Esposito. Vol. 2. 1900-1953. New York: Frederick A. Praeger,
CMH Pub 19-7
Cover: Men of the 32d Infantry, 7th Infantry Division, marching
through a village near Inch 'on (National Archives)
PIN : 077984-000